Because most people in the ancient world constantly lived on the edge of starvation, obesity was neither an option nor, for most, something to be avoided. Only the rich could afford the luxury of being fat, and for this reason fatness became a mark of status and wealth.

Eglon, king of Moab, was “very fat” (Judg 3:17,22); and Eli, high priest at Shiloh, was “heavy” (1 Sam 4:18; cp 2:29). Both men had attained a social position by which they could be “acceptably fat,” yet in both cases their fatness is portrayed as a narrative symbol of extravagance and slothfulness. The book of Proverbs similarly cautions that excessive eating and drinking is the mark of a fool (Prov 23:20-21; cp Phil 3:19) and urges restraint (Prov 23:1-3; 25:16).

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